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American Forces Press Service

Rice Urges Patience as Iraq Continues Progress to Democracy

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2005 – Amid voices on Capitol Hill calling for an exit strategy in Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked for patience as America helps establish democracy and unity in the Middle East.

In a June 16 news conference at the State Department about her upcoming trip to the Middle East and Europe, Rice said a U.S. presence in Iraq is central to long-term U.S. security, but the administration is focused on shifting responsibility to the Iraqis.

"I do think that we owe it to the American people to say again and again that this is not going to be an American enterprise for the long term," Rice said. "This is going to be an Iraqi enterprise."

The Iraqis are becoming more capable every day of handling their own affairs, Rice said. Politics and administration are almost completely controlled by Iraqis now, she said, and the security forces are on their way to being independent.

"They're now engaged in joint activities with us, but they've done some things completely on their own," she said. "For instance, they protected the elections almost completely on their own."

The Iraqi security forces are being trained in counterterrorist operations because they are not facing a traditional army, but a tough insurgency made up increasingly of foreign terrorists, Rice said.

"The security forces and their ability to fight - it depends on intelligence. It depends on the population being able to support them," she said. "And the Iraqis have created the political conditions in which we believe that's going to happen."

Next week will mark the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty, and Sunni Muslims reportedly have reached a compromise with other Iraqis about how to move forward on a constitutional commission, Rice said. This marks another step in Iraq's progress, she said, and is a sign that America's role in Iraq is being taken over by the Iraqis.

However, Rice said, progress remains to be made, and Americans must be patient as Iraq adapts to what is now a very different Middle East.

"It is work that requires that we as Americans reach down in ourselves and look for the kind of patience and generosity that we have exhibited in the past in understanding that democracy takes time," she said.

This will be Rice's third trip to the Middle East since taking office in January. She will visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brussels and London.


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